In an email to all employees, Zynga just announced that veteran executive Don Mattrick will be the gaming giant’s new CEO, and former CEO and co-founder Mark Pincus will now be its Chief Product Officer as well as remaining the Chairman of its Board of Directors. Mattrick comes from Microsoft in a sudden move, and was previously at Zynga competitor Electronic Arts.
Pincus explained in an email to staff and a blog post that “I’ve always said to Bing and our Board that if I could find someone who could do a better job as our CEO I’d do all I could to recruit and bring that person in. I’m confident that Don is that leader.” He also noted “Zynga has so much more potential ahead, the opportunity to be an Internet Treasure and deliver on our mission of connecting the world through games.”
Update: Mattrick has now sent an “Excited to be here” email to all employees, saying that “Only Zynga combines engineering, industry-leading product management and analytics to deliver products that strike a chord with consumers and add real value in their lives…We have the opportunity to create lifelong relationships with our customers through our high quality products. Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential.”
Until today, Mattrick was Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment. He most recently delivered the news that Microsoft would retreat following backlash in response to announcements that its new Xbox One would have digital rights management preventing users from freely swapping games and would require an Internet connection to play games.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent an email to his employees saying “This is a great opportunity for Don, and I wish him success. Don’s directs will report to me and will continue to drive the day-to-day business as a team, particularly focused on shipping Xbox One this holiday. Thank you, Don, for setting us on a path to completely redefine the entertainment industry.”
As the new CEO he inherits a tough job of completing Zynga’s transition from a web-focused Facebook games company to a multi-platform developer with its own properties and a focus on mobile. The news leaked this morning via Kara Swisher to positive reactions from Zynga shareholders who boosted the company’s stock price 10.43% to $3.07. After hours the stock has gone up another 3.58% to $3.18 following the announcement.
Zynga is still struggling to recover from a disastrous IPO at the end of 2011 and a string of soggy games that have failed to bring in the users or dollars the way its old hits FarmVille and CityVille did. The question will be whether Mattrick can restore morale and get Zynga producing beloved games again while simultaneously laying off employees to make the company more financially sound.